Mormons and American Idol

Since one of the most commonly searched terms which land people on my blog was the combination of Mormons and American Idol, I figured it was high time that I write an exhaustive piece on the Mormons (I’m aware of) that competed in any significant way on American Idol.

Surely there have been thousands upon thousands of Mormons audition for the show, since most Mormons are encouraged demanded coaxed taught to sing even from their cradles.

Here are some of the reasons that contribute to Mormons’ being more predisposed to being musical:

  • Mormon children’s first lessons about God and Jesus come during “singing time” which takes place during weekly church worship.
  • Mormon teenagers are encouraged to sing solos and in small groups during weekly church service.  They are always told they did a phenomenal job, even if the vocals really stunk – because you can’t tell someone that a song they sang about Jesus was terrible (in church).
  • Mormons need a multiple members in every congregation who can play the organ and piano – necessity is the mother of invention.
  • Each congregation has a “Ward Choir” made up of 10-30 of the ward’s least sucky singers.  These often include teenagers and children for lack of adults who have enough time to join between all the other meetings and committees they have to attend.
  • Mormon families often have small ‘talent shows’ as part of their family gatherings and family reunions.  Families with the most talent are clearly better and more righteous than other families.

(Yeah… for you non-Mormons out there, some of that was a little tongue in cheek…)

So here’s the contestants and what I know about them.

Carmen Rasmusen (#6, Season 2)

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The original…

This has to be one of those most hideous performances on this show, ever. There’s little more than her bombshell looks and her Mormondom that got her as far as she got.

Carmen came to BYU (the LDS Church’s private university) the year after she went on American Idol.   I was a Junior there at the time, and I remember reading the articles in the paper about her.  All I really remember was that they made a big deal about her living in the dorms, and that she just wanted to be like any other freshman girl… meet some freshman boy, send him on a mission, then dump him 6 months into it when she meets the man of her dreams…

She (probably too quickly for her) got just that.  She’s married now and has a kid.  And hasn’t made a peep.

John Peter Lewis (#8, Season 3)

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John Peter Lewis – at his worst – right here:

John Peter Lewis was friend-of-my-friends.  I never knew him personally, but hear he is a very nice, talented dude.  He’s obviously not done anything since Idol.

Wikipedia says:

Rather than accepting business offers to use his “Idol” fame to release a quick pop album, Lewis decided to work on his own musical style and create original music.

I guess we’re still waiting for that work to come to fruition… because if this is what he’s referring to, he should have spend the last 5 years doing something else…

John Preator (Top 36, Season 3)

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John is actually a good friend of mine, and has given me the most insight into the actual ‘making of’ American Idol.  He was asked several times to go back through a door or come back onto camera again, but more excited or more mad or more <insert emotion here> during the audition rounds.

Sadly, John was kind of in the shadow of JPL, and there just wasn’t enough Mormon/Utah Valley votes to keep them both afloat.

Sorry Johnny… I had to do it…

Brooke White (#5, Season 7)

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Brooke White is perhaps the most screaming Mormon contestant to ever appear on any reality show.  From the moment she walked on camera, the first thing she talked about was how she never has watched a rated “R” movie.  She was insecure, looking for validation, and acted incredibly, genuinely interested in what the authority figures on the show had to say about her every note… (a trait not replicated to that degree in any contestant before or since)

Brooke played the piano onstage, but sadly it often distracted rather than added to her performances, and we quickly got a little sick of her one-note music stylings.

She is perhaps the most famous for having stopped and restarted a piece in the middle of the broadcast, another first in Idol history.

David Archuleta (#2, Season 7)

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Oh David, David… What do we say about David?

David created the famous David Archuleta School of Stage Presence and Hand Motions

David is one of my favorite AI contestants of all time.  He has this youthful ‘aw-shucks’ personality, and is quite the singer to boot.  My favorite performance of his will always be the night he launched himself into the top echelon of American Idol with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

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Taylor Vaifuana (Top 36, Season 8 )

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I wasn’t sure if Taylor was a Mormon, as she hadn’t had any onscreen ‘tells’ other than generally modest and not-too-trendy clothes.

Then, a local paper printed this:

Kourtnie Tisdale said she knows Vaifanua as she is also a student at Hurricane High School and said even though she didn’t know her well, was rooting for her.

Tisdale said in Seminary, Vaifanua wrote and sang a song which she said was amazing.

“She’s got a good voice,” Tisdale said.

Yes, the smoking gun… “Seminary”. This is the religious class that active Mormon high school aged students participate in. The fact that she actually wrote and sang a song for her seminary indicates that she isn’t simply a MIBO (Mormon in Baptism Only), but that she is actively LDS.

Her performance fell into the not-so-great-kind-of-forgettable.  I think she just came before her time.  Give her a few more years…

Here was her train wreck…

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Did I miss anyone? Let me know if I did…

2 thoughts on “Mormons and American Idol”

  1. I can’t decide whether or not to take exception to being classified with the “ward’s least sucky singers.” The best backhanded compliment I’ve heard all week! 😉 At least by this point, most of us realize we really sound much better disguised in a group.

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